My girlfriend hasn’t told her parents about me.
It’s been a week, but we’re still a secret – hanging out but never going out, just like we did last fall. Despite my appreciation of how she’s willing to spend that time, I don’t want to be confined to my house with Dori. She’s like a new toy that I can’t show off – which was a dick thing to slip and say, but she just rolled her eyes at me for it.
As it is, John is the only friend I have who knows about my new relationship status, although my co-star on my last film – Chelsea Radin – smirked perceptively whenever she saw us together during the last few cast volunteer days at the Habitat house. I’m guessing she knows. Especially after she caught us emerging from an alcove on the side of the house, Dori’s ponytail loose and her face flushed, me wearing a shit-eating grin.
John and I are hanging courtside when he decides to bring up my clandestine affair, because his concern for timing is identical to his regard for tact – non-existent.
‘So when are you revealing this so-called relationship to the world already?’
The level of noise in Staples Center keeps our exchange confidential, but that doesn’t mean I want to discuss Dori in the middle of eighteen thousand people – never mind several hundred cameras broadcasting the game to millions more. Plus, he pronounces relationship in a tone most people reserve for STD. When I shoot him a look, he blinks innocently. I suspect this guise worked on his father for years before he figured out that John really was a next-generation version of himself.
‘What? Reid Alexander has a girlfriend.’ His voice dips at this last word – not like he’s obeying my gag order – more like this fact is too appalling to divulge at full volume.
I stare at the three-point shot, lined up and missed. We both curse.
‘It’s Perez-worthy news, bro! What’s with the containment?’
If John is waiting for my answer, he can f**king keep waiting.
Kobe gets penalized for travelling – which never happens – and I slump back in my seat, crossing my arms tightly over my chest. ‘Shit.’ That expletive defines my current feelings for the Lakers and Dori, both of whom I love, both of whom are pissing me off.
Elbowing me, John smirks. ‘C’mon, man, you know I’m the soul of discretion.’ Oddly enough, that’s true. When I don’t spill immediately, he starts guessing. ‘So it’s over? Is that it? Dude, I said it wouldn’t la–’
‘She hasn’t told her parents yet.’
From the corner of my eye, I watch him frown in confusion and peer at me like I’ve just spoken a foreign language and he’s waiting for the translation.
Staring at the game, I add, ‘I feel like I’m stuck in a f**king teen drama.’
John arches a brow. ‘Wait. You’re serious. That’s the reason? Because she hasn’t told her parents? I could line up a hundred girls who’d be jacked as hell to go out with you – once. You’ve made this girl your girlfriend, and she’s not telling everyone she knows?’
I shrug, but it stings when he puts it like that. Like I said – tact is not John’s thing.
He shakes his head. ‘Never thought I’d see the day some girl got Reid Alexander pu**y-whipped – Ow! Dude!’ Glaring, he rubs his arm where I punched him. ‘What is it about this girl that makes you so f**king violent?’
I laugh, because now we’re on the screen over centre court. Time to appear as if we’re screwing around rather than beginning a private brawl that would unseat the Lakers and the Jazz as tonight’s primary entertainment. ‘Camera.’
At that word, John switches gears and plays along with the horseplay ruse, shoving me back.
‘That was your last warning, man.’ My on-camera smile doesn’t conceal the sharp threat in my voice. ‘Don’t talk about her like that.’ He’s lucky I gave him a deep bicep bruise instead of rearranging his face.
‘I was talking about you,’ he growls in return, his fake smile mirroring mine.
‘Ms Cameron? Bethany Shank here. I’ve located him.’
I shouldn’t have answered her call in the middle of a pedicure, but when I saw her name pop up on the screen, my curiosity was overpowering. No way that was going to voicemail. When I hired a private investigator, I expected her to find my kid. I mean duh – of course I expected her to find him. Even so, this news floors the hell out of me. My heart is thrashing like I’m mainlining espresso.
‘That was … fast.’
The woman currently patting my feet dry is pretending she isn’t listening to my side of this conversation, and I wonder if she can hear the thundering slam of my heart.
‘Yes, well, I told you it would go quickly once you gave me the go-ahead to conduct the search.’
‘So what’s next?’ I’ve found him. Despite my superficial confidence, my hands start to tremble. I wish I was at home, alone, so I could lie down or pace in circles – anything but sit here with my foot on some stranger’s knee, shaking like my mother’s inbred Pekinese, which pees if someone sneezes.
‘There’s a lot of sensitive information here. Too much to relay over the phone. Would you prefer to come by the office tomorrow, or would you prefer that I come to you?’
Okay … he’s four. How much information can there be? He finally stopped wetting the bed. Throws an occasional shit-fit tantrum. Learned how to write his name in preschool. Has a normal life. That last bit is all I care about: I just want to hear that he has a normal life, so I can go back to mine in peace.